Six Steps: Helping people to keep reading after sight loss

Avril was in her early forties when her sight began to change as a result of macular dystrophy in both eyes. She’s now 60 and knows that people’s perceptions of her changed after she began to lose her sight. She says reading is ‘… the one thing I hold on to. I’ve had to change things or give up things but reading keeps me in touch with who I think I am and that’s why it’s so important to me’.

Losing sight is one of the most devastating challenges that people face and by 2020, it’s estimated that the number of people in the UK with some degree of loss will have doubled from 2 million to 4 million. Libraries Week is a good time then, to reflect on the many ways in which we can help people to maintain their wellbeing by continuing to read.

‘It’s important to me, probably because I’m visually impaired especially; it’s something I can still do. Whereas there might be other hobbies that I’ve had to give up but I can still read. Well, I can still listen’. Female reader, Scotland

It has never been easier to continue to enjoy reading if you are challenged by diminishing sight; ebooks and audio are widely available through libraries, charities and commercial providers. Accessibility features on computers are now very sophisticated and the advent of voice controlled units such as Amazon Echo or Google Home provide access to information, entertainment and reading.

SCL’s Six Steps Promise provides a simple framework for libraries to follow which demonstrates that we understand the challenges that our customers face and know how to help support their reading. Over 200 services are signed to the promise across the UK and during Libraries Week, many will be providing opportunities for people to engage with different reading formats.

‘I have read since I was four years old and to continue, no matter how hard it becomes, is really important to me, providing a link to my loved ones in my mind at least’. Female reader, England

In Peterborough, for example, the local liaison officer will be visiting the library to help introduce the service’s range of ebooks and downloadable audio on 12 October which is World Sight Day. Stockport and Nottingham City will deliver a similar range of experiences and in Stockton, we’ll be using our Library on a Shelf collection to show the different products which can be obtained from our charity partners such as RNIB, Calibre and Clearvision. More information about our work and the various services available can be found at

‘I can go out into a book even if I am physically or financially incapable to leave home. It occupies me even if my body feels capable of nothing’. Female reader, England

Mark Freeman, Libraries and Information Services Manager